Refugee Leadership and Participation

Birth of the APRRN Refugee Leadership and Participation Working Group

The Asia Pacific Summit of Refugees, inspired from the Global Summit of Refugees which took place in June 2018 in Geneva, commenced in Bangkok on the 22 October 2018. The summit represents an inaugural and historic moment of refugee self-representation in the region. 30 refugee leaders from 5 refugee hosting countries gathered for the Summit in Bangkok, while 78 others joined in virtually from sub-regional hubs in Malaysia, India, Iran, Australia and Indonesia. It was an event organised by refugees, with refugees themselves setting the agenda.

The Global Summit of Refugees in Geneva was organised and facilitated by eight refugee-led networks from around the world, and the event brought together key refugee leaders from all around the world to discuss refugee issues, refugee self-representation and active collaboration with civil society and UN actors. One of the key outcomes of the meeting was the decision to establish an international refugee-led network or international platform for refugee participation and self-representation. Hence, the opportunity for an Asian regional model of the Global Summit in conjunction with the the biennial APRRN Consultation was seized.

The Asia Pacific Summit of Refugees was organised by a number of refugee-led organisations and networks from within the region including The Global Summit of Refugees Steering Committee, Australian National Committee on Refugee Women and New Zealand National Refugee Association. It was also supported by the Refugee Council of Australia and APRRN. The summit was moderated by Najeeba Wazefadost, a refugee advocate from the Australian National Committee on Refugee Women, and Tin Ma Ma Oo from the New Zealand National Refugee Association, along with hub facilitators from each of the country hubs who coordinated the simultaneous gatherings in 5 different remote locations.

Knowing well that many refugees are limited by their freedom of movement yet have much to contribute, the webcam technology was hence utilised in order to ensure representation from the different countries. The country hubs were self-organised by local refugee leaders in Jakarta, Indonesia; Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia; New Delhi, India; Mashad, Iran; and Sydney, Australia. During the morning session of the summit, facilitators and representatives from each hub were able to share about the issues refugees and displaced peoples were facing in their context and how they were already leading and self-organising in response. The afternoon session of the agenda featured workshops discussion within each hub, centred around two questions:

Areas of advocacy to prioritise in the next two years:

  • How refugee-led networks can work together in the future
  • How refugee-led networks can collaborate with civil society members

  • After a full day of open and productive discussions, two concrete outcomes from the summit emerged. These include the decisions to form an Asia Pacific branch of the Global Network of Refugees, and a working group within the APRRN structure. The latter was formalised during the Asia Pacific Consultation on Refugee Rights (APCRR7), with the formation of the Refugee Leadership and Self-Representation Working Group within the APRNN network structure that will function for the next two years. This working group is now led by two refugee leaders within the network; Najeeba Wazefadost (ANCORW) as the Chair and Wakhushee (Karen Peace Support Network) as the Deputy Chair.

    For more detailed information about the Asia Pacific Summit of Refugees, please see the following report.

    Chair: Najeeba Wazefadost (Asia Pacific Network of Refugees, regional)

    Deputy Chair: Mohammad Baqir (Bangkok Urban Community Club, Thailand)